Terence Ankeny AKA Zoolab first went on tour, so to speak, when he was five years old and his father—a bass player in bar cover bands—took him on the road in eastern Washington and Idaho. These were some of Ankeny’s first musical memories and he began his own musical journey at 12 on the drums. He continues to play the drums in local band Spirit Award and has dabbled in guitars, bass and keyboards since high school—a self described jack of all trades, master of none.
Of late, Ankeny has distinguished himself as an electronic music producer. This pursuit began around 8 years ago for him, but he has focused on it especially in recent years releasing his first EP Voices in December 2013. The follow up Trestles was released this month by Jimi Jaxon’s label 7 Deadly Records.
Ankeny is candid about his music which, as he puts it, is made to “be conducive to good times while remaining tasteful.” It is glittering, easy on the ears, catchy and sincere—and of course danceable. Vanguard decided to catch up with him following the release of Trestles and get his take on the local music scene and his own creative process.
Vanguard Seattle: Tell us about the Trestles EP.
Zoolab: These were the four best tracks I had going after my last EP, Voices. I knew I wanted to put out another, better 4-song EP as soon as possible and chose these ones to refine. As far as the collaboration with Maiah Manser on “You Got It,” we met while I was still writing the EP. My friend Chris Moore was producing a single for her called “Hold Your Head Up” and Chris asked me to help out with some minor beat/synth stuff on it, and I knew right away that I wanted to do a collaboration with her.
The name Trestles actually came up pretty late in the game, not long before it came out. I was literally on a Trestle and texted my friend Greg [Smith] who was doing the artwork and generally helping me out with creative direction and I was like “Trestles?” and he whipped up the cover.
VS: Are you giving yourself a timeline for an LP?
ZL: I’m not really giving myself a timeline per se, but I do want the next release to be a full length. I don’t plan on wasting any time, so hopefully that will be coming to fruition sooner than later. I already have loads of tracks started. I just have to decide which ones to dig into.
VS: Solo producers spend a lot of time tinkering alone, then play in raucous, social environments. Do you count yourself as an introvert or an extrovert and how does that relate to your music and performance?
ZL: I kind of feel both ways, respective to the way you put it. I spend loads of time alone making tunes and I really enjoy that isolation. But at the end of the day I’m definitely an extrovert that just wants everyone to party and have a good time. That intent definitely comes through even when I’m alone making tunes. I just try to imagine how it would translate at a party or club.
VS: Genres are always popping up, and artists are either trying to claim or escape them, but they don’t say much. All the same, is there a genre you would claim (or make up) for yourself?
ZL: Someone called my stuff “sparkly bangers” once. Don’t know if that’s a genre but I liked that. [laughs]
VS: What is the best part of being an electronic music producer in Seattle?
ZL: The best is how small it is relative to other places. There’s definitely loads of great electronic music being made in town, but it sort of has a community vibe to it. It feels like most of the people playing out know one another and come out to each other’s shows. There is definitely a stronger mutual respect vibe than there is any kind of competitive one.
VS: And the worst part?
ZL: I suppose the best is also the worst. The electronic scene here is only so big. Seattle is a great place to be as a musician, but overall there seems to be more room to grow for rock-type artists. That said, I do feel that things are changing. It only seems to be getting bigger and better in my opinion.
VS: If you could collaborate with a local, who would it be?
ZL: Well, admittedly Maiah was definitely at the top of that list, and thankfully we actually got to work together, hopefully not for the last time. But since that has already been done, I guess I’d have to say either Scot of Vox Mod or another female vocalist like Alicia Amiri or Whitney Lyman. I really dug her collab with Vox Mod.
VS: And if you could collaborate with anyone living or dead who would it be?
ZL: Probably Bradford Cox. That guy can do anything and does most all of it quite well. It would be interesting to see how that guy operates.
VS: If you could record a sample of any sound in the universe to include in a song (no matter how impossible that might be) what would you record?
ZL: A dial up modem at the bottom of the ocean.
Photographer Frank Correa recently shot several portraits of Zoolab, including the one used in this article. His super-saturated, bright style is rather perfect for the subject, whose youthful verve comes through in his music and Correa’s image. We queried Correa on a few points, too.
Vanguard Seattle: You photograph so many art world darlings in Seattle, and every shot is distinct. Do you choose the subjects for a concept you have in mind, or does the concept come from the subject of the photo?
Frank Correa: Some of both. Sometimes I present a sketch of the concept to the subject, and if they are game, they are on. And so on.
VS: How did you get introduced to Zoolab and decide to do his photo?
FC: I approached Terence about a cucumber-peel-off-face-mask project I did back in MySpace days in Seattle. This new Zoolab photo happened one day we were hanging out with his black kittens at their headquarters.
VS: With a name like Zoolab, a lot of animals would have been apt. If you could have chosen an animal besides kittens, what would Terance be holding?
FC: A boa with angel wings.